LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 7, 2015) — For several years, University of Kentucky students have been able to take classes related to the wine, beer and distilled spirits industries. Now, those courses will come together into a cohesive undergraduate certification program that will prepare students for careers in this growing economic sector.
Wine, brewing and distillation form a multi-billion dollar industry with myriad career opportunities in science, engineering and the arts, said Seth DeBolt, horticulture professor in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.
“Through the undergraduate certificate in distillation, wine and brewing studies (DWBS), students will gain the knowledge and skills needed to pursue various career options within these industries,” said DeBolt, who serves as the program director. “We are excited about this program and its ability to provide trained employees for this thriving Kentucky industry and provide excellent career options for our students.”
DeBolt and his colleagues have been consulting with these industries within the state to ensure the program will be a positive experience for their students as well as meet industry needs.
In addition to leading the program, DeBolt is one of several faculty from three colleges and seven departments who will be instructors for the program. The certificate has the flexibility in its course structure for students from a variety of degree programs to develop skills advancing their career options.
Students will gain an understanding of the career opportunities in wine, brewing and distilled products industry; be able to define key technical methods and analytical skills required for a career in these industries and understand the history of wine, brewing and distilling and how this relates to human culture.
“When a small group of us had our initial discussions about the potential of a certificate program, I knew I wanted to be a part of this exciting initiative,” said Bert Lynn, a faculty member in UK’s chemistry department and co-director of the internal advisory group. “As a chemist, I have always been fascinated by the orchestra of compounds that define the flavors and fragrances in spirits. The DWBS certificate provides me an opportunity to share my enthusiasm for this science with students from diverse backgrounds. I cannot think of a more enjoyable teaching experience.”
In the near future, they hope to award between 100 and 150 certificates per year. In addition to training and knowledge in the field, these certificate holders will have an appreciation for the history and traditions behind Kentucky’s DWB industries.
“I join Seth in saying that we are excited about this program and excellent career options provided for our students,” Lynn said.
Internal and external advisory boards made up of faculty and industry, respectively, will oversee the program. The first certificates will likely be awarded sometime late this year or in 2016.
“In the spirit of the land-grant university, we are happy to embark on this top quality teaching program that meets industry needs and strengthens the Kentucky land-based economy,” said Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We hope this program leads to closer partnerships and collaborations with our valued commercial partners.”
Wine, beer and distilled spirits are a growing industry in Kentucky. In 2013, bourbon production from more than 40 Kentucky distilleries surpassed 5 million barrels with a value greater than $8 billion a year. Some 10,000 people are estimated to work in this industry.
“Additionally, approximately 25 new craft and full-scale distillers will be opening soon, and there are more than 70 wineries and a thriving craft beer movement that demand trained and knowledgeable employees,” DeBolt said. “Finding graduates with an understanding of fermentation and their industry are vital to the industries’ rapid growth.”